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Edward Ndopu, defying odds

2019-09-13  Staff Report 2

Edward Ndopu, defying odds

Paheja Siririka

WINDHOEK- Edward Ndopu is a young African who is setting the wheels in motion to become the first physically disabled commercial astronaut. “The idea is to broadcast a televised address from a spaceship to the United Nations and address world leaders on behalf of any young person who has ever felt excluded by society,” he informed Youth Corner.

The Namibian born who became South African after moving there while in his infancy says it is symbolic to him and described the speech as a love letter and an enduring power of the human spirit. “Everything that I wanted to say, everything that I have learned will be bottled into a 20 to 25 minutes message to world leaders,” he said. 

The 29-year old was in the country recently and delivered a speech as a special guest at the 5th Annual Children’s Parliament of Namibia (CPN). Ndopu is the current Advocate and Activist of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a position he was appointed by UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres. 
Ndopu lives with SMA-Spinal Muscular Atrophy (a disease that deprives persons of physical strength by affecting the motor nerve cells in the spinal cord, taking away the ability to walk, eat, or breathe. SMA is caused by a mutation in the survival motor neuron gene 1 (SMN1) which he was diagnosed with at the age of two. 

He said what drives him in life is the retraction of mediocrity. “I was told I wouldn’t live beyond the age of five years. I have outlived my life with 24 years and if that is the case, it means I am living on borrowed time and if living on borrowed time-why be mediocre, I have to go all out and live my life,” he said. Ndopu believes the current system penalises people living with disabilities because of the lack of access to facilities such as the economy, the environment to a certain extent, which means one, is more prone to live in poverty. 
“This will become a self-perpetuating vicious cycle and position people living with disabilities in a negative sense,” he stated. He said when it comes to addressing issues related to disabilities, leaders tend to go for zero as the benchmark of what is possible. “It is usually the bare minimum for survival purposes, such as giving grants, charitable interventions and institutionalising people such as putting them in hospices,” detailed Ndopu. 

He also said the little governments does for people with disabilities should be well observed. 
“It’s not just having access to a building, having elevators for convenience, it also has to do with owning the building. The inclusion I would like to see is people living with disabilities have a stake in the ownership of the economy. Where are the CEOs who are living with disabilities? I am talking about people living with disabilities occupying power in decision-making and I want you to ponder on this: Do we associate an extraordinary life with people living with disabilities? He questioned.

With a degree specialising in sociology, gender studies, disability studies, postcolonial studies all based on social justice issues from Canada and Masters in Public Policy at Oxford University, Ndopu is having a keen interesting in how decisions are taken at high level, how power works and its influences as far as social justice is concerned. 

2019-09-13  Staff Report 2

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